There is a war going on for your brain. Which means you need to develop the instruments to guard you against the ongoing manipulation by social media, your mobile phone, your laptop, Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others. Read “Likewars” and “The four”. That is why I read a lot of books about mindfulness and meditation. Hence “Inner engineering, a yogi’s guide to joy”. A book that is full of tools and tips to manage your mind.
You are your memories
The book is in some ways a version of “Breaking the habit of being yourself”. You are your memories. Right now your problem is that you suffer what happened ten years ago and you suffer what may happen the day after tomorrow. Both are not living truths. They are simply a play of your memory and imagination.
However, your mind carries the enormous reserves of memory and the incredible possibilities of the imagination that are the result of an evolutionary process of millions of years. The human body can function as a piece of flesh and blood or as the very source of creation. The human spine isn’t just an arrangement of bones; it is the very axis of the universe. It is said that if you can remain blissful for twenty-four hours, your intellectual capabilities can be almost doubled. The only thing that stands between you and your well-being is a simple fact: you have allowed your thoughts and emotions to take instruction from the outside rather than the inside.
You are the greatest piece of technology, but the problem is you don’t know where the keyboard is. You just need to see that the source and basis of your experience is within you. Pain or pleasure, joy or misery, agony or ecstasy, happens only inside you. All human experience is one hundred per cent self-created. If your thought and your emotion are of your making, you can mould them any way you like.
The word “spirituality” is one of the most corrupted words on the planet. The spiritual quest is not a cultivated choice. It is not an induced quest. It is a natural longing. You are capable of experiencing only that which is within the boundaries of your sensation. To attain the ecstasy of borderless unity, which is our natural state, all you need to do is live by the guideline that all human experience is generated from within—either with the support of external stimuli or without. But today most people in the world are moulded by the situations in which they exist.
Mastery over you
Your body is just an accumulation of food. Your mind is just an accumulation of impressions gathered through the five senses. What you accumulate can be yours, but it can never be you. If you have mastery over your life energies, a hundred per cent of your life and destiny will be in your hands. If the ability to respond with intelligence, competence, and sensitivity is compromised by a compulsive or reactive approach, we are enslaved by the situation. Being fully responsible is to be fully conscious. It is time to reclaim for ourselves the extraordinary transformative power of this single word: responsibility. Apply it to your life, and watch the magic unfold. Responsibility simply means your ability to respond.
Your physical existence is possible only because of your body’s seamless ability to respond to the entire universe. If your body wasn’t responding, you wouldn’t be able to exist for a moment. Do you see that? This ability to respond to the entire universe is already a physical reality. Taking responsibility is not accepting blame instead of assigning it. It simply means consciously responding to the situation. Once you take responsibility, you will invariably start exploring ways to address the situation. You will look for solutions. Reactivity is enslavement. Responsibility is freedom. When you are able to create yourself the way you want, you can create your life the way you want as well. Your outer life may not be a hundred per cent in your control, but your inner life always will. On the other hand, the first reaction—anger—usually provokes unintelligent action.
Why would anybody want to manage stress? You should manage the things that are precious to you—your money, your business, your family. However, people have assumed that stress is an inevitable part of their lives! They do not see that it is entirely self-created and self-inflicted. Once you take charge of your inner life, there is no such thing as stress. Besides, there is substantial medical and scientific evidence to prove that in a state of anger, you are literally poisoning your system.
Memory has no objective existence. It is not existential; it is purely psychological. If you retain your ability to respond, your memory of the past will become an empowering process. But if you are in a compulsive cycle of reactivity, memory distorts your perception of the present, and your thoughts, emotions, and actions become disproportionate to the stimulus. The choice is always before you: to respond consciously to the present, or to react compulsively to it. If you take one hundred per cent responsibility for the way you are now, a brighter tomorrow is a possibility. You come into this world with nothing, and you go empty-handed. The wealth of life lies only in how you have allowed its experiences to enrich you.
Choice of action
Responsibility is not compulsive action; it offers you the choice of action. Can you then respond to the moon? You can. Your body and life energies certainly do. When entire oceans rise in response to the cycles of the moon, do you think the water content in your own system doesn’t rise as well? Your ability to respond is the way you are. In fact, every subatomic particle in your body is responding in a limitless way to the great dance of energies that is the cosmos. On the level of human consciousness, you are like a bird in a cage without a door. What a tragic irony! It is only out of long aeons of habit that you are refusing to fly free. Life has left everything open for you. Existence has not blocked anything for anyone.
“My ability to respond is limitless, but my ability to act is limited. I am one hundred per cent responsible for everything I am and everything I am not, for my capacities and my incapacities, for my joys and my miseries. I am the one who determines the nature of my experience in this life and beyond. I am the maker of my life.”
Full time being or part-time being
Everything is here and now. Once you choose to become conscious of this simple fact—my ability to respond is limitless—suddenly life within you reorganizes itself in a completely different way. The question is: do you want to be a full-time human being or a part-time human being?
Exercise 1 Active
When you have your next meal, do not talk to anyone around you for the first fifteen minutes. Just be in an active conscious response to the food that you eat, the air that you breathe, the water that you drink. Build “My responsibility is limitless; if I am willing, I can respond to everything”—into the entire day. Be conscious of it until the last moment before you fall asleep and remind yourself of it the first thing when you wake up. If you sustain this awareness of your limitless nature for just one full minute, you will achieve a tremendous transformation.
The science of yoga is, quite simply, the science of being in perfect alignment, in absolute harmony, in complete sync with existence. These three realities—body, mind, energy—are what you know. They are also what you can work with.
- The first sheath or layer to which yoga draws our attention is the physical body—the annamayakosha, or more literally, the food body. What you call the “body” right now is just an accumulated heap of food. It is the product of all the nourishment you have ingested over the years. That is how it gets its name.
- The second layer is the manomayakosha, or the mental body. Every cell has its own intelligence, so there is an entire mental body, an entire anatomy of the mind. Whatever happens in the mental body happens in the physical body, and, in turn, whatever happens in the physical body happens in the mental body. Every fluctuation on the level of the mind has a chemical reaction, and every chemical reaction, in turn, generates a fluctuation on the level of the mind.
- The third layer of the self is the pranamayakosha, or the energy body. If you keep your energy body in perfect balance, there will be no disease in your physical or mental bodies. When your energy body is in full vibrancy and proper balance, chronic diseases cannot exist in the body.
- There is a fourth layer called the vignanamayakosha, or the etheric body. Gnana means “knowledge.” Vishesh gnana means “extraordinary knowledge”—that which is beyond the sense perceptions. It is a transient state.
- There is also a fifth sheath, the anandamayakosha, which is beyond the physical entirely. Ananda means “bliss.” However, bliss is not a goal in itself. Once you touch this dimension of nonexistence, blissfulness is guaranteed.
Yoga does not ask you to work with anything other than what you know. It simply tells you that if the physical, mental, and energy bodies are perfectly aligned, you will find access to the bliss body. Once you master certain basic yogic technologies of inner well-being, your journey through life becomes effortless. You are able to express yourself at your fullest potential without any stress or strain. You can play with life whichever way you want, but life cannot leave a single scratch upon you.
If you employ your physical body to reach this ultimate union, we call this karma yoga or the yoga of action. If you employ your intelligence to reach your ultimate nature, we call this gnana yoga, the yoga of intelligence. If you employ your emotions to reach your ultimate nature, we call this bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotion. And if you use your energies to reach the supreme experience, we call this kriya yoga, the yoga of transforming energies. Right now, for most people, these four dimensions are aligned in different directions. Your mind is thinking one way; your emotions pull you another way; your physical body another way; your energy another way.
Everything is body
Yoga is not about being superhuman; it is about realizing that being human is super. The yogic sciences, as explained above, do not speak of the mind or the soul. Everything is just a body—whether it is a food body, a mind-body, an energy body, an etheric body, or a bliss body. The physical body is designed and structured to function by itself without much of your intervention. The body is a pretty complete and self-contained instrument. If you are fascinated by machines, there isn’t a better one! This is the most sophisticated piece of machinery on this planet—it embodies the highest level of mechanics, the highest level of electronics, the most sophisticated electrical circuitry you can imagine. Let us say you eat a banana this afternoon. By evening, this banana has become you.
You can transform the physical body from a series of compulsions of flesh, blood, and hormones into a conscious process, a powerful instrument of perception and knowing. There is an intelligence at work within you, way beyond your logical mind, which can transform a bit of food into the highest piece of technological excellence. If you could achieve that transformation consciously (instead of unconsciously), if you could bring even a drop of that intelligence into your daily life, you would live magically, not miserably. To journey from the boundary-based individual body to the boundless source of creation—this is the very basis of the spiritual process. You are struggling with the walls of resistance that you have built around yourself. That is why the yogic system does not talk about God. It does not talk about the soul or heaven.
Exercise 2 Connect
Try this. Sit for a few minutes in front of a plant or tree. Remind yourself that you are inhaling what the tree is exhaling, and exhaling what the tree is inhaling. Even if you are not yet experientially aware of it, establish a psychological connection with the plant. You could repeat this several times a day. After a few days, you will start connecting with everything around you differently.
The sense organs are limited. They can perceive only that which is physical. If your perception is limited to the five senses, naturally the scope of your life will be restricted to the physical. The sense perceptions are absolutely wonderful instruments for human survival. However, the very seat of your experience is within you, but your perception is entirely outward bound. That is why there is such a big disconnect between within and without. The simple process of paying a little bit of attention to your inner nature will transform the quality of your life in remarkable ways.
Exercise 3 Awareness
Start by paying attention to everything you think of as yourself just before you fall asleep: your thoughts, your emotions, your hair, your skin, your clothes, your makeup. Know that none of this is you. If you consciously get your body into different postures, you can elevate your consciousness. If you sit for just a few hours a day with your spine erect, you will see that it will have an unmistakable effect on your life. You will now begin to understand what I mean by the geometry of your existence. Just the way you hold your body determines almost everything about you. Choose any one thing about yourself: your breath, your heartbeat, your pulse, your little finger. Just pay attention to it for eleven minutes at a time. Do this at least three times a day. Keep your attention on any sensation, but feel free to continue doing whatever you are doing. If you lose attention, it doesn’t matter. Simply refocus your attention. This practice will allow you to move from mental alertness to awareness. You will find the quality of your life experience will begin to change.
The most fundamental practise in the yogic system is bhuta shuddhi—the cleansing of the elements (space, air, water, earth, fire) in the physical system so that they work in harmony. Every time you are consciously in touch with any of the elements (which you are every moment of your life), just make a conscious attempt to refer to it in terms of whatever you consider to be the ultimate or the loftiest ideal in your life, whether it is Shiva, Rama, Krishna, God, Allah (or even Marx!). You are a psychological being right now, and your mind is full of hierarchy. This process will settle the hierarchy. After some time, the word can fall away. But you instantly see the change as the number of truly conscious moments in your life increases. The air that you breathe, the food that you eat, the water that you drink, the land that you walk upon, and the very space that holds you—every one of them offers you a divine possibility.
Exercise 4 Eating
At the next meal, approach your food with the reverence that the life-making material deserves and eat it. Most people can bring down the quantum of food they are eating to a third and be much more energetic and not lose weight. It is just a question of how much receptivity you have created within yourself. Accordingly, your body receives.
Every creature on the planet knows what to eat and what not to. What is the human problem then? The human problem is not enough attention but too much information. The consumption of a spoonful of clarified butter (ghee in India) on a daily basis a few minutes before a meal does wonders for the digestive system. Secondly, it leaves the least amount of its imprint upon you. Among the animals, fish, being one of the earlier forms of life upon this planet, have the easiest software code for our system to break and integrate into ourselves. We are incapable of completely integrating more evolved, intelligent, and emotionally endowed creatures into our systems. Additionally, large animals, particularly cows, are aware of their impending slaughter well before it happens. Consequently, they experience high stress levels, which generate a tremendous amount of acidic content in their systems. This, in turn, has its own adverse impact on those who later consume the meat.
Fasting and food
If you are conscious of how your body functions, you will become aware that on a particular day, the body does not require food. The day the system says “no food” is a cleanup day. Start with twenty-five per cent natural, uncooked, or live food—fruit or vegetables—today, and slowly push it up to a hundred per cent in about four or five days. Stay there for a day or two, and again cut it down by ten per cent and in another five days you will reach fifty per cent raw food, fifty per cent cooked food. This is ideal for most people, who wish to be active for sixteen to eighteen hours a day.
Exercise 5 Hands
Basically, because the nature of the hands and feet is such that the energy system finds expression in these two parts of the body in a very singular way. Two palms coming together have far more intimacy than the contact between any other parts of the body. So, the simplest way to experience a state of union is to try this simple namaskar yoga. Put your hands together, and pay loving attention to any object you use or consume, or any form of life that you encounter.
When it comes to the outside, there are a million ingredients, and nobody has complete mastery over them. When it comes to the inner situation, however, there is only one ingredient: you. You can be the sole architect and creator of your inner life. The system of yoga is a technology to create a distinction between you and your mind. It is the accumulated physiological and psychological content that causes the cyclical patterns in your life and even beyond. If you can be constantly conscious of this space between you and the body-mind, you have opened up a dimension of limitless possibility. Yoga is a journey toward a reality in which you experience the ultimate nature of existence as borderless unity. This experience is possible only if you maintain that space between you and your body-mind. The experience of borderless unity, on the other hand, can deliver you to another dimension altogether—a dimension of love and blissfulness, a dimension far beyond the cerebral. That means, if the activity of your mind ceases and you are still alert, you are in yoga.
Exercise 6 Baggage
Remind yourself at least once an hour that everything you’re carrying—your handbag, your money, your relationships, the heaviness in your heart and body—are things that you’ve accumulated over a period of time.
Thinking about life, not living it
It is only because you exist that you can generate a thought. But your thought process has become so compulsive that your focus has shifted from the existential to the psychological. This has happened to such an extent that you have begun to believe that you exist because you think! It is time to restate a fundamental fact: you are, therefore you may think. This has nothing to do with any philosophy, Eastern or Western. It is a simple existential reality. Even without your thoughts, existence is. What are thoughts really? Just information that you have gathered and recycled. All the human mind is doing is recycling old data. Right now, ninety per cent of the time, you are only thinking about life, not living it. If you want to know the experiential dimensions of life, you will never know them with the petty process of thought. Thought can only be logical, functioning between two polarities. This is the fundamental choice you have: either you learn to live with creation, or you manufacture your own creation in your head. Once you are no longer identified with your mind, you are free to experience life beyond limitations.
Exercise 7 Consciousness
Set your tap in such a way that only five to ten drops fall per minute. See if you can observe each drop—how it forms, how it falls, how it splashes on the ground. Do this for fifteen to twenty minutes a day. You will gradually become conscious of many things around and within you that you are completely unaware of right now. It is an exercise in attention—in turning what is sporadic and intermittent into a flow.
You will find that every thought that arises in the mind has its roots in data you have already accumulated. The data may be gathered consciously or unconsciously. In any case, this basically means your intellect is perpetually immersed in the past. In such a state, nothing new is now possible. And so, the intellect loses its edge and becomes a trap. Once your intellect—or buddhi, as it is termed in the yogic taxonomy—gets identified with something, you function within the realm of this identity. So, your mind, which should have been a ladder to the divine, is stumbling through endless mediocrity and, on some occasions, has become a straight stairway to hell.
Exercise 7 Thinking
Just sit alone for an hour. No reading, no television, no phone, no communication, nothing. Just see in the course of this hour what thoughts dominate your mind—whether it is food, sex, your car, your furniture, your jewellery, or anything else.
Garbage and comparison
The accumulative part of the mind is, to put it simply, just society’s garbage bin. The blitzkrieg of information that your mind receives daily enters you only through your five sense organs. Your sense organs, as we have seen before, always perceive everything only in comparison. Where there is comparison, there is always duality.
Exercise 8 Precision
You could just try bringing a certain precision into the physical movements of the body. For instance, if you see a straight line on the floor, try walking in perfect alignment with that line, maintaining an easy gait. This is not about becoming self-conscious, but about becoming precise or exact. Try this with your body and see. Bring precision into every movement, every gesture.
Awareness is what you are. Awareness is aliveness. Sleep, wakefulness, death—these are all just different levels of awareness. Suppose you were dozing and somebody shook you awake. Boom! The whole world comes back in a single moment! That is not a small thing. You re-created the whole of existence instantly. The world, which was obliterated in your experience, pops back. Not in seven days—in just a moment. How do you know whether the world exists or not? Only by your experience. Don’t try to be aware. It will not work. If you keep your body, thought, emotion, and energies properly aligned, awareness will blossom. You will become far more alive than you are right now.
Sleep is nothing but temporary death. Every night you are presented with a tremendous possibility—the possibility of becoming aware of the dimension beyond death. The moment that you move from wakefulness to sleep, make an attempt to be aware. If you achieve waking with awareness and moving from wakefulness to sleep in awareness, you are deathless.
The trap of intellect
Think with my head but with every cell in my body. This makes thinking an organic, seamless, and integrated process. Just work at removing from the mind the idea that thought is intelligence. The first step toward moving from the trap of the intellect to the lap of a larger intelligence is to recognize that every aspect of life—from a grain of sand to a mountain, a drop to an ocean, from the atomic to the cosmic—is a manifestation of a far greater intelligence than your minuscule intellect. If you take this one step, life will start speaking to you like never before.
Existence is energy
A well-established human mind is referred to as a kalpavriksha, or a wishing tree that grants any boon. With such a mind, whatever you ask for becomes a reality. Today modern science is proving that this whole existence is just a reverberation of energy, an endless vibration. Thoughts too are a reverberation. If you generate a powerful thought and let it out, it will always manifest itself. For this to happen, it is important that you do not impede and weaken your thought by creating negative and self-defeating thought patterns. There is an alternative to faith, which is commitment. If you simply commit yourself to creating what you really care for, now once again your thoughts get organized in such a way that there are no hurdles. So first, explore what it is that you really want.
In yoga, the fundamental basis we establish is this: you are one person, a single, unified being. There is no separation of head and heart; you are one whole. It is not useful to create this conflict between head and heart. Emotion is just the juicier part of thought. Devotion means dropping the dualities of like and dislike, attachment and aversion. It means “what’s fine” and “what’s not fine” do not exist for you anymore; everything is fine.
Love is a quality, not something to do with somebody else. It does not matter how many times true love has been proclaimed; if a few expectations and requirements are not fulfilled, things fall apart. This is essentially a mutual benefit scheme. When you talk about love, it has to be unconditional. The moment there is a condition, it just amounts to a transaction. Love is an inner state, and how you are within yourself can definitely be unconditional. Acts of love can become tedious and stressful over a period of time. You realize love is not something that you do; love is the way you are.
Exercise 9 Love
Try this for fifteen minutes or so: go sit with something that means nothing to you right now—maybe a tree, a pebble, a worm, or an insect. Do it a few days in a row. After a while, you will find you can look upon it with as much love as you do your wife or husband or mother or child.
Devotees have the sweetest experience of life. Everybody may think they are idiots, but they are having the best time on the planet. You decide who the idiot is! When you realize experientially that every atom, every grain of sand, every pebble, every piece of life from the smallest to the biggest is unfathomable, you will naturally bow down in utmost devotion to everything. If you simply sit here and breathe, you will know life better than through any deep analysis.
An idiot is incapable of drawing conclusions. A mystic is unwilling to draw conclusions. If you want to become a devotee, at least once an hour in all the waking moments of your life, put your hands together and bow to something.
But fundamentally, what you call “myself” is just a certain amount of energy. The content of both your physical and mental bodies has been gathered from the outside. They belong to you, but they are not you. Pain is bad enough; why make it worse with suffering? And every human being has the choice: to suffer or not to suffer. If you can joyfully do whatever is needed in a given situation, this is freedom. But limiting yourself to doing only what you like is a horribly compulsive way to live.
“Karma” literally means “action.” Action is of three kinds. It could be in terms of the body, mind, or energy. Karma is like old software that you have written for yourself, unconsciously. Depending on the type of actions that you perform, you write your software. Once you write a certain type of software, your whole system functions accordingly. Karma is encrypted on every aspect of life. It is imprinted on your mental memory, the fundamentals of your body, your chemistry, your very energy. What you consider to be your personality—the bundle of traits and tendencies that you are—is because of the information you have gathered unconsciously. These tendencies have been traditionally described as vasanas. The word “vasana” literally means “smell.” Depending upon what type of smell you emit, you attract certain kinds of life situations to yourself. If you want any kind of transformation, any kind of forward movement in your life, it can only happen if you break the cyclical patterns of karma. There is no freedom of thought, emotion, action, and, above all, no freedom of experience as long as you are in the karmic grip. Read “The diamond cutter“.
Become life itself
When you experience everything that comes your way absolutely, when you experience every life breath with utmost intensity, without the distractions of thought and emotion, devoid of any psychological drama, you are liberated from the very process of birth and death. You are not only more alive; you are life itself.
Exercise 10 Purpose
Try this. Sit alone for five minutes and see what your life would be like if you were absolutely alone in this world. If there were nobody or nothing to compare yourself with, what would you truly long for?
An opportunity every 4o minutes
When you are very observant, you will see that every forty minutes you are going through a physiological cycle. Once you see that, then with the necessary attention and awareness, you can ride the cycle and move toward transcendence from the limitations that these cycles set. So, every forty minutes, life presents you with an opportunity—the opportunity to become conscious.
Exercise 11 Chakras
By focusing at a point six to nine inches away from the region between your eyebrows for twelve to forty-eight minutes, with your eyes open, you can realize the nature and structure of your individual chakras
The last chapter of the book is not dissimilar the opening of this blog. We have tremendous tools of science and technology at our disposal—powerful enough to make or break the world several times over. However, if the ability to wield such powerful instruments is not accompanied by a deep sense of compassion, inclusiveness, balance, and maturity, we could be on the brink of a global disaster. Never before has a generation of people known the comforts and conveniences we have today. And yet, we cannot claim to be the most joyful or loving generation in history. What is missing is human consciousness. Everything else is in place, but the human being is not in place.
There is a way out. And the way out is in. It is only by turning inward that we can truly create a world of love, light, and laughter.